A Welcome Return To Form
When Lego announced they’d be developing another superhero-related game tackling the DC universe, the news was met with more than a few disappointed groans. Even more so after the lacklustre Lego: The Incredibles which released earlier this year. Thankfully, Lego DC Villains is not just a return to form for Traveller’s Tales, it’s also one of the best Lego games released for quite some time. Although the main bulk of the gameplay remains unchanged, improvements with physics and animations give the game some much needed polish with an original story complete with your own created character showing more creativity which has been sore lacking in recent games. While DC Villains shares its own series of problems, Traveller’s Tales have improved their formula in all the right areas without losing the unique charm the franchise is known for.
The story revolves around the Justice Syndicate, a shady group who dispatch the Justice League
Instead of following the plot of a film and recreating iconic moments in Lego, DC Villains boasts an original story complete with an all-star voice cast and, for the first time in the franchise’s history, a custom character as the focal point of the plot. The main narrative revolves around the usual iconic DC villains coming together after a few mischievous missions of mayhem, bearing witness to the Justice League being captured by a strange group calling themselves the Justice Syndicate. It soon becomes clear that all is not what it seems and in a desperate bid to balance the forces of good and evil, the DC villains, led by Lex Luthor and Joker, take the fight to the Syndicate, uncovering a larger plot at work in the process.
Most of the general gameplay is unchanged from previous LEGO games
For the most part, the story develops well with a good amount of focus given to each iconic character from the DC universe. Most missions see you forming an unlikely fellowship with a host of different characters, mixing up the different franchises to good effect. One mission sees you take control of Reverse Flash, Deathstroke, Solomon Grundy and Joker while another sees you controlling your chosen created character, Deadshot, Captain Cold and Grodd. This constant group changing dynamic really helps give the game some much needed variety between each level while respecting each villain enough to let them shine as you traverse through the levels in a familiar way to what’s come before in these games.
Those new to the franchise can choose a handy “tutorial” guide to begin with while those more accustomed to the mechanics are able to skip a lot of the lengthy hand-holding at the beginning of the game. Essentially each level begins with you taking control of the characters, switching on the fly to tackle light puzzles and traverse through the destructible environments, collecting studs to build up your currency (which can be used to buy new characters and vehicles) before ending with a boss fight. Specific abilities tailored to your individual character make each unique to play as and these tie in to the environment and level design encouraging you to replay every level to collect everything.
Each character plays differently with specific physic and animation changes helping
This formula is mostly unchanged from previous games but slight tweaks to animations, physics and the general ebb and flow of gameplay make DC Villains a real step up from previous titles. Cars now spin or flip if you drive into them, each character has a specific animation for a drop attack and handle differently and even the way two separate characters perform the same ability is distinct enough to help them stand out. All of this combined with less bugs, an interesting and well designed open world along with a massive roster of characters to unlock make DC Villains one of the best Lego games to be released in quite some time.
The addition of a created player for the original story is a welcome inclusion
Having said that, the formula itself is still largely unchanged from other Lego titles so after completing the main campaign and the various bonus levels, including a specific handful of missions dedicated to the Justice League, expect a big open world chock full of collectables and side quests to complete. These are of course generally just busywork and don’t really add anything substantial to the game except the promise of reaching that illustrious 100% target and unlocking more characters. There’s also a handy UI notification via a smartphone in the corner of the screen that shows your progress toward certain challenges and accomplishments which is a small, but welcome, change to the general flow of these open world areas.
Lego DC Villains is everything you’d expect from a Lego game with the added surprise of improved gameplay tweaks and an enjoyable, original story. The voice acting is really impressive too, drawing on the talents of recognisable voices from the TV animation while providing an enjoyable, well designed aesthetic for them all to play in. While this is unlikely to be a title that changes your opinion if you haven’t been a fan of the franchise, it is a step in the right direction for the company and a signal of intent that Traveller’s Tales aren’t just rehashing these games to make a quick buck.
Verdict - 8/10